President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday commended the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg for sharing his wealth of knowledge with Nigerian youths, and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.
He gave the commendation while receiving the internet entrepreneur in the State House, Abuja.
Buhari, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said that the various meetings held with Nigerian youths since his arrival were most timely as the country was already exploring opportunities to spur development through entrepreneurship.
He said: “Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potentials for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potentials to reality.
“I am impressed by your simplicity in sharing your knowledge and wealth with those with less income,’’ the President said.
Buhari noted that the simplicity and magnanimity of the entrepreneur, who is among the world’s richest men, had also challenged the culture of lavish wealth display and impulsive spending that had become peculiar to Nigerians.
He added: “In our culture, we are not used to seeing successful people appear like you. We are not used to seeing successful people jogging and sweating on the streets.
“We are more used to seeing successful people in air-conditioned places. We are happy you are well-off and simple enough to always share,” he said.
In his remarks, Zuckerberg said he was impressed by the interest, energy and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by young Nigerians in all the ICT camps that he had visited.
“I was highly impressed by the talent of the youths in the Co-creation Hub in Yaba. I was blown away by their talent and the level of energy that I saw,’’ he said.
Zuckerberg said he was in the country to promote the penetration of “fast and cheap” internet connectivity, Express-wifi, that would help people create online businesses and reduce poverty.
After the meeting with the President, Zuckerberg and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo went to the old Banquet Hall of the State House for the Aso Villa Demo Day where the three finalists, Tracology, Recycle point, and Mass shuttle were announced to the public.
The three winners emerged from a total of 4,000 that competed on innovative and technology ideas relevant to solving Nigerian problems.
Out of the 4,000 that competed across the country, 30 of them had earlier emerged from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja competition.
As a reward to the three final winners, Airtel announced N3m each for the top 3, Sahara Energy announced N500,000 each for the top 3, while Dell also announced undisclosed amount for the winners.
Speaking at the event, Zukerberg said: “Thank you all for having me here today. It’s so inspiring to see what you have built here. This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change.
“It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook. I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it will work. And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world, if it will help the company great, if it will help the country great.
“You are not just going to shape Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world. So what I will say to the winners today and all the people that participated that I’m blown away by what you are doing, I believe in you and I look forward to seeing what you do and congratulations,” he added.
Osinbajo said: “It’s really exciting to have Mark Zukerberg with us. I think one of the great things you have demonstrated is that it is possible to live your dream, it is possible to make your dreams not just come true but so fabulously that it will not only influence your environment but you will influence the whole world.
“One of the things you have done is really to create connectivity across the world so that people are really able to interact across tribe, race, countries and feel as part of one family and one faith.
“So I think that it’s one of great things that you have done. And your coming to Nigeria has been especially energizing not just for the young people but for everyone else. As you can seek I’m on Facebook and the president is also on Facebook so we are one of the 17 million.
The Vice President also commended all the 30 winners and the three finalists for their great achievement.
He said: “This is the first Aso Villa Demo Day but the next year will be bigger and better. I don’t know if we will be able to get Mark to show up for that but somehow of the other, we are going to keep him in the loop and let him know what we are up to and how and how progress we are making.” He said
He said that Nigeria is going to be built and is being built on the energy, the innovation and the creativity of the young people.
He added: “Today, Technology has created a level playing field; technology has made it possible for you seated somewhere, in your office or living room to create wealth, to create connectivity, to create all manner of things across the world.
“So this is not like when I was 25 years. It’s a completely new day and I think that there is so much hope, so much your generation is going to do and I am certainly looking forward to being a part of that.
“By the time I am 80 I hope that I will be in a position to have an app that will enable me follow what you guys are doing, seated somewhere in my village, enjoying life.
“I’m sure you are going to have a great future and I certainly look forward to working with as part of the government of Nigeria to ensure that all that your talents and abilities are put in the best possible use and we I’ll support you all the way.
“We are also looking forward to cooperating with Facebook, I’m sure that in the next couple of months we will be working out the ways we can cooperate especially with connectivity and some of the great ideas that Mark has to improving connectivity in Africa,” he stated.